A Sideways Approach to ERP

I promise I have not forgotten how terrifying it is to be in the crosshairs of OCD.

sidewaysEven though I’ve had a decade of freedom, I can remember the sheer terror, ugly discomfort, the feeling that relief would never come. It felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff by only my fingertips and knowing that hell was below. It was painful and exhausting to hold on, but I figured letting go would be even worse.

In fact, letting go was my salvation.

Hear me out. That one sentence does little to describe the immensely hard work of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. It doesn’t show the years of not knowing what was wrong and why my brain didn’t work like most others’ did. It doesn’t show the hard road just to get to a diagnosis; it doesn’t show all the attempts to fix things with prayer, medication, talk therapy, hard conversations with people who loved me but could never understand what was going on in my head. It doesn’t show the desperation that grew large enough to finally force me to call an ERP therapist, and it certainly doesn’t show the actual process of ERP therapy, the brain/head/heart/body work of actually “letting go.”

And that is something that I want to honor, in myself and in you.

When I say “letting go was my salvation,” I am not talking about a reckless choice to fall over the cliff. I’m talking about a thoughtful decision backed up by evidence and supported by tremendous bravery.

I stole power back from OCD by facing the thoughts that I’d spent twenty years fearing with my entire being. I was not able to turn around and face them head-on.

But I did face them sideways.

This is how.

Let’s say the thought I was running from was something like “I want to hurt people.” If I were to let myself say or even think “I want to hurt people,” then I’d be acknowledging I was a monster and (this is how people with OCD think) would have to either turn myself into the cops and either be locked up or they would send me home and I would have to lock myself up or else live with a constant, unbearable anxiety that I would lash out and hurt someone at any time.

But what if I hear someone else say it? And I told my friends, “Today I heard someone say, ‘I want to hurt people'”? I would still be saying the words (stealing back power from OCD over that phrase) but I would not be taking ownership of it the same way. I would be coming at it from the side.

And that’s exactly what I had to do. I let myself think, “My OCD is making me think X.”

This was the only way I was able to even approach the intrusive thought that was destroying my life. It wasn’t running at it full-steam-ahead and tackling it. It was sneaking up from the side and tapping it on the shoulder.

But it was enough.

Thank you, Dr. Christopher Donahue, for helping me sneak up on OCD, for helping me be just brave enough to steal back the power I needed to prompt my mind to fix its faulty wiring.

When I finally let go, it wasn’t hell beneath me. It was God’s hand.

Beloved who Dreads the Holidays

You are not alone.

Honestly, I’ve spent time thinking about how to articulate this, and I think if I am usually functioning at a level just below “the normal,” then that gap is exaggerated at this time of the year. I drop lower due to the cold, the darkness, while others seem to move higher due to the Christmas joy, holiday lights, family time. I become so much more aware of the gap. 

Does that make any sense?

I’m blessed. I have great friends and family, a warm place to spend Christmas. There will even be the cutest little puppy-niece there to keep us on our toes.

But I will also be doing my best to suppress feeling lonely for romance, ignoring seasonal depression, and beating myself up over the inevitable inflammation as I fail to avoid sugar. 🙂

Today is the shortest day of the year in this hemisphere. And even though the temperatures will keep dropping for a while, the days will start to get longer.

And in eleven days, we get this marvelous symbol of new beginnings, second (third, fourth …) chances, healing. Mmm.

Beloved, you are not alone. We are not alone.

10 Cover Songs I Want

I spent the drive to and from my parents’ house listening to Relient K’s album full of cover songs, one of which is my favorite cover ever. (Bonus: at the end of this post, I will share my two favorite covers!)

It got me thinking, and while I listened, I tried to come up with my own dream cover album. Here’s what I’ve got:

“MMMBop” by Hanson, covered by Ed Sheeran
“Can’t Fight this Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, covered by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows
“Everything I Own” by Bread, covered by Imogen Heap
“Follow You Down” by Gin Blossoms, covered by Falling Up
“Penny Lane” by the Beatles, covered by One Direction
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, covered by Relient K
“You Got It (The Right Stuff)” by NKOTB, covered by the Weepies
“Find You” by Zedd, covered by Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, covered by Matt Nathanson
“So Far Away” by Carole King, covered by Rachael Yamagata

Okay, your turn. Which song would you love to be covered by which artist?

Here are my two favorites:

Darkness, Poetry, Healing

I’m scared that learning to take a great selfie has only resulted in postponing people’s disappointment.

I’m aware that is an uncharitable thought and maybe untimely (I’m on my period).

I wish the holidays were over. I wish this every year. I just want it to be January 2nd with me dreaming big and digging hard into goals.

I’m lonely, and loneliness is exaggerated in my life by cold weather, attending holiday events alone, and darkness. Right now it gets dark around 5:30. That’s a lot of time every night for loneliness to grow.

And we are still headed into the darkness at this point. One more week till solstice.

Even then, the light returns slowly.

It’s the switchback again, you see: it feels counterintuitive to head into the dark, but it’s still the right path.

2018 has been both harmful and healing. In the same hands I can hold all the heartbreak and tears as well as the joy and healing.

Can you tell I’m in a mood?

One promising thing: lately, I’ve been thinking in Poetry. Poetry like a language, like finding you dream in Spanish or argue with yourself in French. I have been thinking in Poetry– when I lie on the acupuncture table under lights, the massage table under hands, when I walk silently across my room, in the shower, in my car, in the space before sleep while I listen to artificial thunderstorms I desperately wish were real.

I think in Poetry.

It’s just been a long time.

That, almost more than my lab results and much cleaner room and less impossible mornings, shows me I’m healing.

Celebrating Life AND Death at Christmas

On my mind …


christmas celebrateIt’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but this– my favorite modern Christmas hymn– stirs my soul like no other. While most people I know have Christmas as their favorite holiday, mine will always be Easter. But, of course, they are connected.

We begin in the dark: a humble stable, a pregnant girl whose faithfulness means giving birth in a barn, a baby king with no cradle but a manger.

And it gets darker still: abuse and blood and death, a broken body in a sealed-up tomb.

But it ends (or is this actually a new beginning?) in the light: LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

That’s why “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K is a holiday gem. Because it celebrates it all: light and dark, life and death and life again, the entire plan.

Listen below.



And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could covey

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Deet 34

Happy 34th birthday to my favorite Janet-Jackson-dancing, upside-down-Princess-Pat, goofy, amazing, easily scandalized, figure-skating-obsessed, compassionate, honest, God-fearing, sweet, hilarious sister.

You are the first one to consider how to include a newcomer. Your instincts are so good, even when you doubt yourself. You have an iron will, a heart of gold, and care so much it sometimes turns you inside out. You can also slay a jumpsuit.

I adore you.

Here’s to the next 34 years of making memories as Sommers girls!


Having an ultra productive day, one where I feel happy enough and healthy enough and motivated enough to just BLAST through my to-do list.

Productivity is one of my all time favorite … feelings, I guess. Situations? Experiences?

I used to feel like this EVERY. DAY. Can you imagine? No wonder I got so much accomplished! The last couple of years have been an exercise in humility and stillness, finding inherent worth in BEING, instead of in DOING.

I wrote every day for maybe 5 years. I look back on that and it feels so bonkers.

This week has been good, even though it’s been hard. I know I’ve used this metaphor before, but once again, it feels like a thread has been stitched through so many areas of my life and it’s almost time to pull, to cinch it all together.

I am celebrating.

I purchased a goal planner from Cultivate What Matters. I know it’s the kind of thing that stresses some people out, but I love it. I call it empire building.

It feels amazing to be building anything, let alone an empire. It feels like it’s been a couple years of dismantling.


Sometimes it’s best to take apart all the faulty things and make them right.

I heard it once upon a time and have said it over the years to many people. Remember, Jackie, that mountains have switchbacks. You may not always be facing the direction you’d like, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still approaching the goal. In fact, at times, you may be moving in the literal opposite direction of your destination, but it’s just part of the path that leads there.



I can’t seem to adjust to Daylight Saving this year. By 6 pm, my body thinks it’s 10 and is confused about where I slipped into a wormhole.

I have to take so many supplements right now. It’s overwhelming, and I find myself skipping it a lot. I haven’t figured out a coping method yet, though it helps to spread it out a little. I’ll bring a baggie of meds and supplements to work and take them over the course of half an hour. I probably need to do this at night too.

Periods are the worst. Mine have always been bad physically but now they are bad hormonally. I’m on a rollercoaster and absolutely anything can make me cry.

Being an adult is so hard. It feels harder the older I get, in some ways. Easier in a couple, but harder in most.

I’m just venting here, obviously. I fell today and banged up my knee and I just want cuddles.

*Updated* Online Dating Sites as Described to Harry Potter Fans

Love the prompts on this site … it feels like you get to the core of a person so much faster! Unusual skills … advice to my younger self … I’m legitimately bad at … I’m weirdly attracted to …

Bottom line: Quirky as Harry laced up on Felix Felicis.


The app asks about all your best habits and then forces you to slow down every time you swipe left.

Bottom line: Hufflepuffs only.


Here I paid serious cha-ching to get curated matches– so these people were basically me with different anatomy, except everyone was freakishly timid and on their best, most boring behavior. The closest matches to what I think I want– at least on paper– but IRL it looks more like monthly credit card charges so that I can shout into the void.

Bottom line: Dumbledore is setting you up, buuuuuuuut you have to destroy horcruxes for him in exchange. 

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Coffee Meets Bagel
Every day at noon, female users get sent one “bagel” (yes, that’s what a man/his profile is called on this site). If we like each other, a chat screen opens up. You only get one bagel a day unless you want to purchase another with “coffee beans” that you can earn or buy. I mean, I have friends who found love in this hopeless place, but unless you are ready to make it rain, this is the slowest possible method for finding breakfast. I mean, a partner.

Bottom line: this is like going to the Room of Requirement every day at noon, just hoping that some hottie will be there at the same time. 

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Okc has multiple search options but a pretty unfocused constituency, so be prepared for booty calls and marriage proposals in the same day. I find myself coming back to it over and over again though, since you never know who will show up.

Bottom line: keeping an eye out for love at the Three Broomsticks.

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Plenty of Fish wins #1 Sketch City, and your profile picture is all that matters to most. In a weekend, you might get 99 inquiries for chill and 1 for Netflix.

Bottom line: Knockturn Alley. 

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Christian Mingle
If you’re picky (which I am– hence a specialized dating site), Christian Mingle might give you a killer selection like it gave me: two locals and one guy from Ohio. Cool.

Bottom line: seems like a great idea until you match with two Muggles and one wizard from Durmstrang.

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Bumble is called the “feminist Tinder” because only women can initiate conversations. Bumble brings all the hotties to the yard, enough that it makes me wonder how many profiles are fake. It gives me a feeling of power over incredibly attractive men … who may or may not exist, so … win? Hard to say.

Bottom line: you and Professor McGonagal have a girlfriends night to drink wine and look at cute wizards, which kind of makes it fun even if you don’t find love.

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What the heck is going on here? This is a hot mess.

Bottom line: like apparating the first time. I got out before I got splinched.

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All the Things

I’m going to start a fragrance … catalog. Not of what the fragrance smells like, but how it makes the wearer FEEL. Don’t tell me if this already exists; I want to believe this idea is original.

I’m voting next week. I used to only vote in presidential elections. That now feels foolish.

Completely changing my diet is SO. HARD. I think a big key for me will be getting groceries more often so that I always have healthy food for meals and snacks. If I dont have it on hand, my diet and willpower are blown to smithereens.

I have a date tomorrow. He is very handsome. I’m intimidated.

Work feels good and fun. My coworkers are the best. I’ve been missing some former coworkers too.

I spoke on a panel for disabilities week at mt university. It feels so empowering for me to talk about OCD. That, I recognize, is a miracle.

Some English majors at my university invited me to join them Sunday evenings this month for NaNoWriMo writing fun. I feel like that will motivate me! I’ve been thinking about Salt Novel so much.

I still miss The One That Got Away, although I’m PISSED at him too. I’m hoping God is protecting me from something I couldnt have saved myself from.

I couldnt find my notes from a talk I hear author Aly Carter give about being a “baby author” … so I contacted her online and asked for it. She sent me the PowerPoint. SO. GOOD. I will recap it for you soon.


The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity that looks Nothing Like Christ by Stephen Mattson

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Looking for:

Easy Paleo options

A kitten ring

A man/hero

Grateful for:


Frozen peas

Friends who are exceptionally anti-shaming